At Pacem, our educational approach seeks to balance student self-direction with the teacher guidance needed to ensure depth of understanding and mastery of concepts. We foster the pursuit of individual intellectual and creative passions. In some classes students are guided by their own goals and progress at their own pace, with a teacher helping them to acquire the skills needed to learn independently. In other classes, teachers are strong facilitators, creating a context that encourages student investigation and meaningful discovery through group discussion in the humanities or hands-on work in the sciences and mathematics. Classes that have a lecture component engage students in meaningful inquiry and students make decisions that help shape the content of their study. In all classes, we emphasize intellectual engagement, including the pursuit of complex questions and the development of higher order thinking.
Class content is meant to be meaningful and connected—to the student’s interests, to other classes when possible, and to the real world beyond the classroom. While we want our students to be informed and well-rounded, we often focus on depth, preferring to teach concepts and facts through deeper study of fewer topics, rather than to provide a shallow overview of an entire field of study. Students work collaboratively, in pairs and small groups, as well as individually. Teachers are conscious of different learning styles and seek to engage students in class activities using a variety of approaches.
Pacem does not organize our students by grade level. Instead, students take classes appropriate for their level of knowledge, skill, and development. Because of our small size and ungraded structure, students are grouped loosely by age range. Our middle school program serves students ages 10-14, roughly equivalent to grades 5-8. In general, we offer two levels within this age span (10-12 and 12-14). Our high school program serves students ages 14-18. 1st and 2nd year high school students generally are 14-16 years old and 3rd and 4th year high school students generally are 16-18 years old, roughly corresponding to grades 9-10 and 11-12.